Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

I don't have time every week, can I still be a gardener?

If you have pier access, but do not have the time to commit to oyster gardening, we have high school and college students across the coast that are looking for sites. Please consider allowing a local responsible student to have access to your pier and give you the opportunity to participate without the time commitment.

What are spat?

Spat are juvenile oysters.

I am only at my house in the summer, can I still be a gardener?

The program runs from June through November. If you will not be in town through November, let us know and we will take all of your oysters at the mid-season pickup in September.

How many oysters do I grow?

Most Gardeners raise four gardens. Each garden produces an average of 250 oysters for a total of 1,000 oysters as an average per gardener. So far, the record for four gardens is 2,000 oysters produced.

When do the oysters get picked up?

Final pickups generally occur in November, however a mid-season pickup may be conducted in September or October as requested and needed. To request a mid-season pickup, contact us. This serves to lighten the gardens making maintenance more effective. If the oysters in general grow really well during the season, we may have to move up the final pickup. This will be communicated to the gardeners through the monthly newsletter and website.

How do I get my gardens and oysters?

In May, gardens are delivered to each site. In June, oyster spat will be delivered to you (most likely on a Saturday). Once distributed, oysters should be divided among your gardens, and returned to the water as quickly as possible. All gardeners will be notified well in advance of the date and time of the distribution.

How much time does oyster gardening take?

If maintenance is done routinely, 20-30 minutes per week.

What happens to the oysters?

When the oyster are picked up, they are transported to restoration/enhancement sites as determined by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Who decides what water is open or closed?

Classifications are assigned by The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

What is prohibited water?

Prohibited is one of five classifications used by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources: Shellfish Bureau. The others include Approved, Conditionally Approved, Restricted, and Unclassified. Gardening locations for The Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program can only be located in all but prohibited waters. A map for Mississippi is available in the resources section for guidance. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How will I know if I am doing it right?

Every gardener receives a manual which contains detailed information about what to expect. Additionally, there is a monthly newsletter which you will receive. The newsletter is a primary source of communication within the program. Check for updates of oyster growth, condition, and general observations made during the occasional checks made of the gardening locations by Extension personnel. Finally, you can always contact us by phone or e-mail if you have a question and we can make arrangements to meet you at your garden to answer any questions that remain.

What are the requirements to be a gardener?

While there is a way for everyone to be involved, to be a gardener, certain requirements must be met.

1. New gardeners must sign up by contacting the Program Coordinator.
2. You should be available for distribution of your oyster spat (on a Saturday) in June.
3. Your gardening location cannot be located in waters classified as prohibited. Locations inside of this area cannot be used as gardening sites. If you are in prohibited waters, please consider Adopting a Garden.
4. You should be able to spend 20-30 minutes per week caring for your garden. A hose is helpful but not required.  Weekly maintenance involves washing away mud and algae from the gardens, removing predators such as blue crabs and oyster drills, and optional measuring is done at this point.
5. Occasionally, Extension personnel associated with Oyster Gardening will make checks of garden sites to look at growth rates and take samples. Will you allow them to access your wharf to make these checks?
6. Are you at the gardening location (or can make arrangements for the necessary maintenance) weekly from June through November?